Left: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Right: Warrior heroine Saikal

Selling Sex: Wonder Woman and the Ancient Fantasy of Lady Warriors That Goes Back Millennia

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When the film Wonder Woman is released in early June, it will surely join the blockbuster ranks of other recent comic book-inspired film franchises. Wonder Woman has long been a bestselling creation, originally imagined in 1941 by the psychologist  William Moulton Marston , and  the film follows  some of the main plot lines developed in the comic books.

Wonder Woman is a superheroine  known as Diana, princess of the Amazons, who is trained to be an unconquerable warrior. When an American pilot, Steve Trevor, crashes on the shores of her sheltered island paradise and tells tales of a massive conflict raging elsewhere, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.

Though Wonder Woman was portrayed  as a feminist icon in the 1940s , she is also a highly sexual character.

The original Wonder Woman was a feminist icon.

The original Wonder Woman was a feminist icon.  DC Comics , Author provided

We can only wonder – no pun intended! – about the reasons for this imagined link between war and female sexuality. As a sexy but fierce lady warrior, Wonder Woman is hardly alone. Throughout history, cultures across the globe have envisioned and revered the femme fatale, from feline killers to sensual goddesses to sassy spelunkers.

The Sumerian “wonder woman”

In 3000 BC, in the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk in Mesopotamia, the first  kings of human history  ruled over the south of modern-day Iraq, protected by  Ishtar, a great goddess of war and love often associated with lions.

Ishtar, naked on a vase.

Ishtar, naked on a vase.  Louvre/Wikimedia

Ishtar would reveal the kings’ enemies and accompany them to the battlefield. It was said that she fought like an unleashed lioness protecting her young – in this case, the Sumerian people. Like Wonder Woman, Ishtar’s sacred duty was to defend the world.

She could also be sensual. More than merely worship the goddess, the Kings of Uruk claimed to be Ishtar’s lovers, who, according to  royal hymns of the era , would enter her bed and “plow the divine vulva”.

For the king, receiving sexual and military favours from a goddess served his political agenda, legitimised his reign and made him into an exceptional hero for his people. In the Wonder Woman film, this role is filled by the American pilot.

References to divine lovemaking  are also found among ancient Palestinians, Babylonians , though scholars can’t confirm what was really going on in those temples.

Cat girls from Sekhmet

What’s more sexy than a powerful woman? Taming her, of course.

In ancient Egypt, the most fearsome goddess  was named Sekhmet . Like Ishtar, she had two sides – fierce beast and loving companion.

Sekhmet was often portrayed as a terrible lioness, the butcher of the Pharaoh’s enemies. At times, though, she would transform into an adorable cat named Bastet.

Bastet as a lion.

Bastet as a lion.  Mbzt/WikimediaCC BY-ND

Today, the feline is still symbolic of female sexuality. Catwoman, another comic book heroine, was born a few months before Wonder Woman and is the  most contemporary avatar of a feline woman .

With her curves and her bondage fetish, Catwoman has always been hypersexual, though  some critics  regret that her sexuality – not her intelligence – has become her greatest asset these days.

Amazons, the lonely sailors’ dreams

Warrior women with sexual natures are also found among the ancient Greeks.

Their myth of the Amazons tells of a  Mediteranean kingdom in which it was women who fought and governed , while the men were relegated to domestic duties. Marston’s Wonder Woman comic invokes the Amazons’ city, Themiscyra, and the name of their queen, Hippolyta.

He embellished his ancient Amazonian setting with details from the legend of  the women of Lemnos , in the Aegean Sea, adopting the isolated island idea as Wonder Woman’s home.

According to the Greek story, the women of Lemnos had revolted and massacred all the men on the island, young and old. Living in a forced sexual abstinence, the ladies were delighted when sailors unexpectedly landed on a local beach. They immediately set upon the  Argonauts, a team of beautiful and famous mythological heroes  that included Hercules and Theseus, compelling them into long orgiastic intercourse.

The sex-starved but unattached women theme is another favourite male fantasy, offering imaginary satisfaction of sexual scenarios that may be difficult to realise in real life.

By the late 20th century, Lara Croft came along to update the idea of the Amazons and the ladies of Lemnos. Croft, an English archeologist-adventurer who started life as a character in the 1990s video game Tomb Raider, was the ultimate virtual-reality dream girl: she is an expert in martial arts, great with a gun and super smart.

Comments

At least it is acknowledged in this article that women warriors are myths and fantasies, whether religiously based in ancient times, or commercially/politically based in modern times.They are far more likely to instigate conflicts( cf.Helen of Troy or the Arthurian legends) among men then fight in them!

This may be a reason, though not the only one, why women, until the XX century-and look at how messed up THAT era was-were by and large, kept away from the larger society.While female gossip, intrigue, and wiles from behind the scenes created mischief, most public affairs were still managed by men.

Herodote told about the women in the sarmatian tribes, who were fighting and hunting like their men, and this has been confirmed by archeologic finds, so warrior women are not a myth but an historical reality.

We have all the reasons to believe that the legend of the Amazons comes from early meeting between greeks and sarmatians, as seeing women fighting alongside men must have made a strong impression to the greek people considering that women didn't go to war in their own culture.

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